The destruction of DEI

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

binNH


blackinnhlogoLast week, after watching the Manchester Board of School Committee feed on public television, I was struck with how pervasive the discrediting of DEI professionals and their efforts have become in our country. Over the course of four short years, we’ve seen the pendulum of effort and care swing wildly and widely between hyperfocus and awareness of the need for DEI efforts to a complete disregard for the work and a disdain for the professionals who toil and labor to create spaces of belonging and care for all of us.

Between 2019 and 2021, diversity and inclusion efforts at various U.S.-based companies rose from 29% to 43%. A Study conducted by LinkedIn found that chief diversity and inclusion officer positions grew by 168.9% in 2019-2022. As of November of 2023, that number had significantly dropped to 33%; almost matching the number of initiatives before the great ‘racial reckoning’ of 2020. Various for-profit, non-profit, and educational institutions have rolled back their initial commitment to understanding and bettering the experience of their staff, clients, students, and customers to cow-tow to fringe groups pushing a political agenda – no matter how antiquated.

Just as quickly as these DEI positions were created, advertised, and filled; there was pushback and a sense of “buyer’s remorse” that has only been exacerbated by the dying scrutiny of governing bodies regarding DEI and the onslaught of conservative backlash regarding the acknowledgment of difference in experiences based on various identity markers; including race, gender, and/or sexual orientation. This backlash has taken the form of anti-DEI bills and policy being passed across the country. Since late in 2020, only months after the murder of George Floyd, which was the catalyst to many of these initiatives, over 600 companies began significant cuts toward their DEI personnel. We’ve witnessed an even more invigorated movement to, at best, call into question and, at worst, completely dissolve any efforts focused on expanding our understanding of diverse identities. Over the last 15 months we’ve witnessed the demotion of importance of initiatives that are focused on ensuring an equitable experience for all people related to a job and/or educational experience. 

Already in 2024, Zoom, Home Depot, Wayfair, Snap, and Lyft have all cut their DEI teams by at least 50%, some completely eliminating the roles. At the educational levels, we’ve seen Harvard, University of Florida, and Johns Hopkins all eliminate the entirety of their DEI teams, or fold under the pressure of political interference while accepting the termination or resignation of their most visible DEI leaders and advocates – the vast majority of whom are women of color, and Black women to be specific.  

Even as we distill down this national trend to understand how it impacts us here in NH; it becomes very clear that the blueprint being used across the country to discredit, demote, and dissolve DEI efforts have taken root here in the Granite State. DEI professionals in various school districts across the state continue to experience extreme scrutiny at the hands of administration and boards of school committees; much of which differs from their counterparts in other departments.

Most recently, we’ve seen a school board candidate in Exeter run on a platform of removing all DEI understanding and curriculum from the district, citing concerns about the director of DEI of the co-op and his understanding of his identity and that of the students in the Exeter co-op. In Manchester, we saw the postponement of approval for a request for proposal for DEI consultation and support for the school district. While the details can be seen and heard via Manchester Public Television, it’s important to note that the requested approval activities and metrics are not used across the board for other departmental approvals, and entrench the most diverse district in the state, in the same undercover heavy-handed distrust and over-policing of DEI initiatives. That type of control and surveillance within the diverse community of Manchester continues to push the narrative that DEI initiatives need micro-management levels of oversight in order to meet irregular standards for operation; serving as a microcosm of the experience of DEI professionals across the country. 

Here in New Hampshire, we’ve historically looked at ourselves as the “first in the nation.” Recognizing that this moniker arose due to our involvement in the political arena, we, as Granite Staters, continue to hold ourselves to the standard of “first” with regard to our relationship to the rest of the nation. Because of this, we have an opportunity to continue to lead the nation in how we care for our communities and one another. This may include taking the road less traveled than the rest of the nation, and really investing in DEI initiatives and the professionals who are working towards honoring and supporting everyone.

The right to ‘live free…’ automatically lends itself to all of our citizens having the opportunity to learn about their identities and wrestling with what it means to be a part of a community where diverse identities and experience are honored, valued, and celebrated, as opposed to unfairly questioned, scrutinized, and subject to whims of personal bias and political fodder.


Emerald Anderson Ford e1707750581249

You can reach Emerald Anderson-Ford at elanderson85@gmail.com


 

About this Author

Emerald Anderson-Ford

Emerald Anderson-Ford is a traveling philosopher, anti-racist strategist, and abolitionist. She resides in Manchester.